General Question

monsoon's avatar

How does GPS work for hiking?

Asked by monsoon (2485 points ) July 26th, 2009

I’ve started hiking recently, and was thinking of investing in a good GPS. However, I don’t really know how they work. Will it actually show me trails that exist, or what? Do I have to download stuff? If so, are there specific maps for each small area I want to hike (say a certain park or mountain)?

Thanks!

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8 Answers

hearkat's avatar

Places like REI and EMS have classes to train you on how the GPS works. An ex-bf and I used his GPS for geocaching, but his device was older. I am not sure what the newer devices are capable of, in terms of loading your trails and such.

cyndyh's avatar

I got one a few years ago. You want to go ask a lot of questions at REI or somewhere similar. When I was thinking of getting one for hiking with I took a free class, and quickly figured out what I wanted and didn’t in a GPS. (Did I want to pay an extra `$100 for something that included a compass or not. No.)

At that time, there were different software packages you could get for your PC. I got one for my area and was able to load certain trails onto my GPS before that day’s hike. I also tracked points as a sort of hiking diary to load back onto my PC at the end of the day or weekend.

It really helps if you see it in action and ask questions while you’re able to hold one and fiddle with it.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

The iPhone has a cool application called TrailGuru that uses satellite and gps to log your hike so you can file it or share it with others as a download. Neato.

SeventhSense's avatar

It’s a man in a blimp with binoculars.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Really, its @SeventhSense in a blimp with binoculars.

misst's avatar

I hear they are very accurate, But it depends on the software.

cyndyh's avatar

Before you buy one, ask how accurate they’re guaranteed to be. Back when I bought one they said worst case was 30 feet. I was going to be ok with this, but for the most part it was within a yard of my trail. You’ll find that they under-promise and over-deliver.

The only problem I have with mine right now is that I bought it when I was in Tucson (no big trees and could always get line-of-sight to multiple satellites) and now I’m in Seattle. When I hike I’m usually under a big canopy of trees in a valley between some steep hills and it take a while to step out into a meadow to get line-of-sight. I still enjoy it, but you want to know as much as possible about what you’re getting and what it can do for you.

My husband got me this book a few christmases ago and I really got a lot out of it. It explains a lot about GPS and orienteering in a fun way.

If you have further questions, feel free to PM me. Cheers!

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